Take a Bite of My Heart || Dan & Lauren (a pre-death para)

He shouldn’t feel like this. Not about her. Not about his best friend. The one person he knew better than anyone else. Dan paced up and down his room, from his computer to his closet, then back again. He tried sitting but that was no good either. Somehow moving made him feel better. Like he was doing something. Like he wasn’t sitting there, obsessing over the girl he’d been friends with for years.

He hadnt always struggled with this. Lauren was a few years younger than him, so up until recently, he saw her as a little sister. Someone he could take care of. Dan’s older brother was never really there, he was always off playing football or hanging out with girls. Sure, when he was old enough, he took Dan under his wing and taught him about the birds and the bees, but important stuff, he was never there. Dan felt like he was giving Lauren the gift he never got— someone to have her back. And boy, did she need it. Some days, all dan wanted to do was storm next door and yell at Lauren’s folks. They were rotten to her; making her feel worthless and useless. It took its toll, too, not that she would ever tell them. He was her person, the one that made everything better. When a guy in his grade stole Lauren’s bag, Dan made him give it back and apologise. When Dan caught a Lauren’s older boyfriend cheating on her in high school, he beat him up and defended her honour. She was innocent, and needed to be protected. But now, he wanted to do more than protect her. He wanted her. In every way possible.

It all started at the Carter wedding. Dan had won a scholarship to Oxford for a semester and Lauren had stayed in Boston and started at BU. Both were super busy with school, meaning contact was limited. Lauren also had a boyfriend at the time who didn’t care much for Dan, so he was trying to keep his distance. Some good family friends were getting married, and Dan was home just in time for the wedding. Just as the ceremony was about to begin, Lauren and her family rushed in late and sat down. Her dress was dark red and hugged all the right places. Was this the Lauren he had always known? Was she always this beautiful?

During the reception they snuck off with a bottle of champagne and caught up. Things had gone downhill with Lauren’s boyfriend, leaving Dan with a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. Was it joy? Was he happy she was single again? He shook it off, blaming it on the champagne. They rejoined the party after a while and danced. Then a slow song came on, and he knew. As she rested her head on his chest and her hands snaked around his neck, he knew there was something there. But what could he do? Their friendship was so special, and he didn’t want to ruin it by revealing his feelings for her.

A knock at his window startled him out of fond memories. It was Lauren. Tears were streaming down her face. Dan rushed over and opened the window. As she climbed in, he pulled her close. He felt his heart leap, and pressed his face to the top of her hair. Her strawberry shampoo was intoxicating, Dan was not sure how much longer he could take this. Stroking her hair, he whispered, “what’s wrong?”